Sticking Your Resolution’s Landing

A brand new year, possibly a new hangover and WTF, here’s a list of things you wrote down last night as resolutions. Now that the pounding in your head is beginning to subside it may be time to reexamine that list. If there’s anything of value you’re going to need a few things.

First you need motivation. Perhaps the top resolution of all time is to lose weight. It’s fairly standard and quite popular. Let’s use that as our prime example.

But wait a minute… You have to change your eating habits and exercise routine to lose weight. Unless you have a tapeworm and trust me, that’s not a good option. So if you’re not properly motivated to lose weight you might have blown a bundle on a gym membership or pills/powders/magic potions, etc. Poof. Your wallet is lighter.

At my age (I tell people I’m twenty-five so yes, I lie. It’s okay, no-one believes me.) I can’t afford to keep extra weight on my body. I had hip surgery as a toddler and I want to be able to walk for my entire life, not just now. If I ever get married I want to be able to do lots of things with my husband, who I expect to be at least equally active. I’ve always wanted to be athletic so there’s my motivation and an example for everyone reading this.

Should you see a doctor first? Probably. Don’t sue me if you don’t. He or she can investigate and see if you have a thyroid condition (or some other medical malady) that’s preventing your body from natural weight regulation. This is only a blog. I can’t do that for you. But if your physician offers you help you should probably take it.

Here are a few free weight loss tips: ditch the sugary drinks, get rid of ‘fat free,’ and ‘diet’ foods because they usually replace ingredients with things you may not expect, and chew your fruits and veggies. Replace manufactured snacks like chips and candy bars with nuts and fruit. Learn to ask your stomach, not your thoughts, if you really want that next bit of food. Beware of ‘diets’ because they start with the word ‘die.’

One cookie or slice of pie once in a while won’t make much of a difference so don’t sweat it if you indulge on occasion. Just don’t make it a daily thing. You might crave certain foods for a while but once you start eating food that’s closer to its natural state your tastes should start to change. Give it a chance.

As someone with food allergies I do feel compelled to alert you to the possibility. If any food causes your mouth to tingle or your tongue to start swelling spit it out immediately and get medical help. Anything carbonated works to quell my allergies (I don’t carry an Epi-pen) but you might be different. Please don’t take chances.

Determine whether it’s better to step on the scales daily or weekly. Almost anything measurable can be tracked over time and seeing progress will be a boost to your self-confidence. Seeing weight gain can alert you to the need for fewer calories or more exercise.

Another reason to check with a doctor is the exercise component. You don’t want to get injured from workouts. Your doctor might even be able to recommend how intensely you should workout. You don’t want to aggravate any old injuries. The goal is to improve, not make things worse.

And that’s it for my tips on weight loss. Except for this. I’ve lost nearly twenty pounds in the last year. No ‘diet,’ just eating better, no workout ‘plan’ except for more stairs and learning how to dance (something new for me and I’m terrible at it.) Yes, I could have lost weight faster if I’d neglected the effort to put on muscle; but muscles burn more calories. There’s no deadline for creating a better lifestyle, just a lifeline to better health.

The next thing you’ll need is a commitment. Generally that requires some reason. People who commit crimes need motives–and so do you. Look at the reasons why you want to fulfill a resolution. Unless you’re doing it for yourself it’ll likely fail.

It might be a secondary resolution, like losing weight so your wife will quit nagging, but take another look. Find the selfish part of that. If you become more physically attractive your wife will (probably) want to be more intimate with you. (If she doesn’t, send her to me and we’ll have a little ‘chat.’ Just kidding.)

Maybe you’re less selfish than most and want to help others. You’ll be in a much better position to do that if you’re not the one in need. If you want a definition of commitment it might be this–the determination to not quit in spite of setbacks and discouragement.

It puzzles me when people question my resolve to be fitter and healthier. “You look fine,” they say. Really? Thanks. But ‘fine’ isn’t good enough. I’ve seen my body naked and there’s room for improvement. You haven’t unless you’re some kind of Peeping Tom. (And if you are, shame on you. Besides, you’ll recover. Eventually. Serves you right, when you think about it.)

The last thing you’ll need is time. It takes longer to pick out tasty, healthy food than to grab snacks diabolically located near the check-out. It takes time to walk, take the stairs, lift weights, dance, etc. But if you live longer in a fitter body and can still do things you enjoy in your golden years, it’ll have been worth it.

So there you have it. Motivation, commitment and time. The ‘formula’ should work for other resolutions as well. So it’s up to you. What do you really want?


How The Contract You Signed Might Sabotage Your Movie Plans


Every fiction author dreams of a sell-book-to-filmmaker deal, right? One thing might stand in your way.

It depends on what publishing route you took. Traditional publishers pretty much extinguish an author’s rights to the story world and its characters. (Unless this has changed in the past decade or so, which I seriously doubt.)

A movie deal is made with the copyright owner, in this case the publisher, not the author.

If you haven’t signed a publishing contract yet make sure you read and understand all the details. A lawyer will be worth his or her fees if you avoid a contract you can’t live with later on.

If you self-publish in the traditional sense—set up your own printing press and do all the work yourself—you won’t have the same copyright issues. If you use a self-publishing service such as or Lulu you’ll find varying degrees of copyright ownership. Some services leave your rights largely intact. It’s in your own best interest to understand the fine print.

Avoid vanity presses, which offer what I call the garage deal; usually there’s a single print run with varying degrees of quality and no ISBN. The artwork on the cover may not be what you expect. Then they abandon you to sell your book all on your own. Can your garage or car trunk safely store thousands of unsold copies?

If you don’t know what an ISBN is you’re nowhere near ready to publish. Without one stores cannot carry your book nor will it register as having been published. You’ll have very limited copyright protection, if any.

Filmmakers who purchase book rights to make movies need to deal with the copyright owner. If you’re a published author make sure you still own the copyright before you try to sell your story to a screenwriter or filmmaker. If you’re bluffing about who owns the rights they will find out. They have to. They don’t want to get sued.

My publisher is I’m very pleased they’ve made my novels available as Kindle editions. To purchase my second novel, Martian Blues follow this link:

Three Pitch Points


So you’re ready to pitch your story idea. Great. What’s a pitch?

Like the picture above it’s a snippet of something larger. That’s part of the cover for my third novel, Martian Divides.

The first point is that you want to have enough in your pitch to engage your audience, publisher or buyer.  Describe who your character is, what he or she wants and why.

The second point is this: Make it short. In retail staff are often trained to greet you with a pitch about the current sale. If it takes too long you’re out of there.  Often these are called elevator pitches, partly because they should take no longer than a brief ride in an elevator; but also because you want to engage and increase someone’s interest.

The third point is to experiment with your pitch. Practice saying it out loud. Pitch to yourself in a mirror. Use it on your friends and family. Your first draft will have to be revised until it works for you, for the idea and for your intended audience.

Here’s an example: my novel Been Blued is about an advanced group of aliens who return to Earth because a space virus wiped out their women.  The identity of the protagonists–aliens–is there, along with hints that they’re originally from Earth and they’re technologically advanced. Their mission is clear–find women because they have no more of their own. This also points to a back story–whether or not the virus has been cured.

That’s a lot of information in one short sentence. Once it got to that point I discovered people had two responses. Those who weren’t interested told me I had quite the imagination. Readers who wanted the book continued to ask questions. If there’s a bonus point here it’s that a good pitch will save a lot of time as it separates buyers from non-buyers.

Follow this link to purchase Been Blued for your Kindle:

Five Ways to Help a Grieving Friend

It’s usually awkward to hear a friend’s loved one has passed away. How do you deal with It? These tips might help.

1. Be There. Seriously, your physical presence is a comfort. Your bereaved friend may need hugs, a sympathetic ear or a hand to hold. Often you don’t need to say anything. Help out where you can. Look around. Do the dishes if you see their sink is full.

2. Listen. There will be times when memories, stories and regrets will spill out. Again, you do not need to have all the answers, especially to various configurations of the question: Why? Often the best answer is, “I don’t know.”

3. Avoid the cliches. Phrases like, “they’re not suffering anymore,” “they had a good long life,” and “God is sparing them from what’s to come” hurt far more than they help. Even favorite scripture verses can suddenly feel like salt in the wound.

4. Respect the faith. Different religions have various rituals surrounding death. These are meant to honor the life now gone and comfort the living. The same goes for those who choose to reject religion. Few things are more out of place, uncomfortable (and lacking in comfort) than the Gospel being preached at a non-believer’s funeral.

5. Give your friend space and time to grieve. Tears tend to be avoided in our culture. Many prefer to do their crying in private. Often those who cry or appear sad are told to ‘get over it,’ or ‘move on already.’ This can lead to delayed grief where a person persistently feels sad, or bouts of seemingly unexplained anger.

It can take two years or more to move beyond the impact of the death of a loved one. Recovery comes in bits and pieces. Good friends do help.

Not Your Typical Writer

It’s almost enough to make me wonder…but then I get caught up in the sheer joy of writing once again and all the doubts disappear. I’ll leave the angst to those who’ve earned it. Here are a few ways I don’t fit the typical writer mold:

I don’t suffer to write. I suffer when I don’t write. If I can’t put something down on paper or enter it with a keyboard I get a bit weird. Okay, stranger than usual. Let’s call it that. I’ll write things down on my hand if I have to. There’s something about getting the thoughts in my head out there for others that’s absolutely necessary for me.

I don’t get writer’s block. At least, not for any length of time. All writer’s block does is tell me my story needs to go in a different direction. The characters don’t want to go where I’d planned. It’s out of character for them. Which means we need to do something else. And like magic, no more writer’s block.

I don’t like writers’ groups. Mostly because we are nowhere near being on the same page. I will help writers who come to me for advice, which is rarer than you might expect–and something I may have to stop doing if my life gets more complicated. But groups tend to cover (what is for me) old ground or become too introspective.

I never worry about finding ‘my voice.’ I’m far more concerned with the voices of my characters. It helps when I’m editing to be able to recognize words and expressions they would or wouldn’t use.

Writing often feels like I’m following the characters around and recording their action and dialogue. There are times when they surprise and shock me. One character evoked empathy in readers even after all the horrid things he’d done.

So far I’m never at a loss for inspiration. (One writing ‘instructor’ I disliked intensely all but insisted inspiration didn’t exist. We couldn’t work together.) Without inspiration I’d have nothing to write. My problem is not a shortage of ideas but an inability to write at warp speed.

I recognize that there’s always more to learn. When my film class instructor mentioned that authors don’t tend to make good screenwriters I accepted the challenge. I spent two years reading everything credible I could get my hands on. And I think the reason most authors will never be good screenwriters is because they refuse to do that. They think they know how to write.

They do, of course. They know how to write books. Learning to write screenplays was like rewiring my brain. There were times it was physically painful. But I kept studying until the material started to recycle itself, with the same concepts holding solid in different ways as stated by diverse experts.

I’ll never stop learning. Language changes over time. The comma, for example, used to be everywhere. Now it’s deleted more often than not. Technology alone has created a wealth of words and added new meanings to several. (I’m looking at you, icon.) A writer has to keep up.

A Space Spoof Video

I’m not sure where the idea of prehistoric pizza came from, but the more I worked on this video spoof of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the more crazy ideas just seemed to pop up. Originally there was a large pot of primordial soup with the various figures emerging from it, but the limitations of my tripod prevented me from getting the exact shot I wanted. In the end I deleted that scene altogether.

It was a lot of fun to make this video and it’s my hope that people will enjoy it. And it’s less than six minutes, much shorter than the original movie.

Dreams of the Real World

Ape Family

Sort of Real?

A few weeks ago someone (who shall remain nameless) decided it was okay to dump verbal garbage over my dreams and plans. Basically she told me none of my plans had ever worked out and none of them ever would. She claimed I was deluded to think any different. Fortunately, my future is not up to her.

My first career failed to materialize. I graduated, did practical work experience and waited. I contacted various departments and districts and participated locally, only to finally realized all the paid positions were kept for…let’s just say, other people. Now, if I wanted to continue to do massive amounts of work for free, that was just fine with them. I still believe nepotism and sexism were firmly entrenched, which didn’t help with the limited number of career positions available.

So I went through the grieving process and collected myself. What else can you do when a dream dies? I asked myself what else I wanted out of life. It turned out that was the time to become an author. My study of the publishing industry helped me to realize that the story I wanted to write was outside of the parameters of what traditional publishing houses were looking for. Besides, with fresh psychological wounds still present I wasn’t about to leave my fictional world in someone else’s hands. I found iUniverse, a self-publishing company that provided a lot of the services of a traditional publisher. No matter what my detractor said, there’s no denying the fact that my first three novels are in print, and in the way I wanted.

But dreams that get fulfilled have a way of growing, as does talent that receives an education. My life didn’t end with publication. Good writers find ways to grow their gifting. I felt the next step was to learn to write screenplays.

Last year all I could find was local theater. So I took the Tom/Phyllis/Leslie role in AR Gurney’s Sylvia. It was a great experience and allowed me to see what a theater script looked like. While I never wanted to have an acting career, it’s one of those things I wouldn’t refuse if I was ever ‘discovered.’ But there are people who dream of and work really hard for that. I wish them well.

This year I took the Film 100 course at the local college. It was great! I finished with 81%. Now I’m more aware of what’s out there, have credits that are transferable and know more about the work of filmmakers. I’m also working on my own short film. It’ll be a spoof of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The ape shot above may or may not be in it…or they might all have pizza.

Once the film is complete and uploaded to YouTube I can get to work on writing screenplays. No, it’s not a living, not yet. But it’s progress. More importantly, this is part of bringing my dreams into the real world.

The only thing I feel for the lady who derided my hopes and dreams is pity. Her life never came to much. As for me, I’m over the disappointment of the career I originally trained for. Her comments surprised me, but that was all.

Canadian Thoughts About Dr. Who

Dr. Who is one of two scifi phenomena you can thank–or blame as the case may be–for my becoming a science fiction author. The other is Star Trek, and the two series do have certain parallels in their history.

It used to be part of the Canadian identity to feel as if one was somewhere between being British and being American…stuck in the middle, as the song says. No offense. Canadian humor tends to be a bit offbeat and not always understood. Star Trek was an American creation, while the British Broadcasting Corporation kindly gave us Dr. Who. Canadians liked to watch both.

At least, as much as they allowed us. There were years of reruns of the original Star Trek series while Dr. Who just kept changing actors. The problem was that the doctor wasn’t allowed house calls during the day, ie, episodes were played late at night when much of the intended audience (made up of children) was already in bed. In Canada new episodes tended not to be aired until some time after their original broadcast in the UK. And it seemed like we never got all of them.

Between all those things I always wondered what the dear old ‘Beeb’ was protecting us poor, innocent Canadians from. We live next door to the United States. We’ve seen it all. Heck, we even tossed it a towel to cover its naughty bits.

By the time I began watching the doctor was already being played by John Pertwee, the third actor. Slightly before that a teacher had tried to get me interested in a book that featured the second doctor. She thought I might like it. In a strange and somewhat appropriate twist of fate, that novel made it back to me decades later. The scribbling in the front pages is unique. (Not my writing, I only sign books I’ve written.)

If you don’t watch Doctor Who you need to know that the doctor is a Time Lord who regenerates into another man when he’s dying. He can do this a total of twelve times. The current actor is the eleventh if you count the movie, which many North Americans have never seen. According to the original storyline the doctor becomes the ‘valyard(?)’ for his last regeneration and tries to cheat an earlier version of himself (the 6th doctor) out of the regenerations No. 6 still has coming.

When Tom Baker took over as the fourth doctor it was shortly before my father passed away. I was ten. The church I was raised in preached about life, death, Heaven and Hell quite often. I had a solid grip on the difference between fantasy and reality but on one level it didn’t quite seem fair that the Doctor got to come back when my dad wouldn’t be returning from Heaven any time soon. And few physicians could make that phrase “don’t worry, I’m a doctor!” come across quite so eerily. I confess, it took me some time to start to like Tom Baker in the role. Happily, a person does get over these things.

During those years I came to realize that the wonderful thing about fiction is that you can rewrite what you don’t like about reality. Not only was regeneration a handy device to keep the storyline going, it allowed the producers and writers to make alterations to the character that wouldn’t have been possible any other way. The same man, yes, but slightly different. Sort of like cloning with variations.

When I came into my own as an author I decided to write some Dr. Who episodes to see if I was ‘ready.’ For a twist I wrote several episodes for some of the earlier actors to play the role. They were surprisingly easy to write and I placed them all in a file called Dr. When. They’ll never be made, it was just a bit of fan fiction. It did help me to realize that what I need most from writing is the personal enjoyment I get from the creative process. When it stops being fun I’ll no longer be a writer. Apologies to those of you who have to work so miserably on it but we all have our talents and our daily grinds. I hate editing. I do it, but I hate it.

One thing has always bothered me about the Dr. Who series. He often gets blamed for deaths that occur when he’s around. Of course readers and viewers get to see the whole picture but it surprises me that so many of the other characters can’t seem to see past the dead and realize the doctor has just saved the day, the planet, the universe, time and space itself, etc. And is it ultimately wrong of him to bring about the extinction of species that are Hell-bent on destroying everyone else? It’s not like they’re willing to stay put for peace talks.

So, who’s my favorite Dr. Who actor? I’m afraid I’m a bit fickle on this one. Who’s on at the moment? What about you, who’s yours?

When An Author Gets To Act

The Poster

Community Theater tends to be one of those things people sort of fit into life. It also tends to be one of those things that draws other distractions our way, ensuring either a high level of commitment or none at all. Those of us involved with the local Dionysus theater group got lucky.

All the actors in our recent production of AR Gurney’s Sylvia managed to juggle work and personal commitments to participate. When an actor couldn’t make it to rehearsal we practiced the parts they weren’t in. Our production crew members were also fun to work with. I’ve heard of productions that were derailed by the ego of one or more of the people involved. Instead we got to know each other a bit and eventually parted as friends with good memories.

My particular involvement was the Tom/Phyllis/Leslie role. The play was written to have one actor portray those three characters. Tom appears in two scenes. While Phyllis is definitely a female role, Leslie tends to be excessively in touch with her masculine side. She also counsels in a manner that would have a real therapist thrown out of the position, possibly with an injunction to never practice again.

I think that’s what attracted me to the role. In fiction you can do things you’d never get away with in real life. The humor was irrepressible.

I consider it a huge compliment that audience members said they were asking themselves whether it was the same actor or not, playing those three roles. Apparently I had given entirely different mannerisms and voices to all three, something I had only given passing thought to. My own way of distinguishing the three roles was more through the jewelry–a plain wedding ring and huge watch for Tom, a flashy wedding ring, necklaces, brooches and a delicate watch for Phyllis, a leather tie and medium sized black watch for Leslie, worn on the opposite wrist.

Of course Tom wore baseball caps and hoodies, Phyllis had dressy clothing and Leslie’s shirt was buttoned up to the top with a masculine looking vest and leather tie. For the ease of costume changes, Phyllis and Leslie wore the same slacks and boots. An appearance by Tom in between helped to put space between them.

Somewhere along the line it dawned on me that we would actually be performing Sylvia in the TheatreBC festival in Fort St. John. They said it at the start but it took a while to sink in. Fortunately my role required fewer lines to memorize but it still took a while.

What I really needed was to record them, then listen to them repeatedly. Unfortunately I’m not comfortable with using the computer that way and my tape recorder has been put away in a safe place—safe from me, as it turns out. Since I had very little extra time to be alone anywhere I ended up ‘rehearsing’ mostly inside my own head. This left very little opportunity for reflecting on the roles and developing ideas for interaction. One particular movement the audience loved—spurning the dog hair covered couch in favor of the chair—came to me during the first performance.

People seemed surprised by how easily I switched personalities. As an author I’m constantly shifting viewpoints as I write dialogue between characters. If I don’t keep them separate the reader will be confused, a disaster for the novel.

What was difficult was learning how to smoke or how to appear to smoke for Tom’s character. I’ve always been a non-smoker and never realized how challenging the whole thing can be. Not only do you have to hold the cigarette in the right spot it’s tricky to hang onto when you put it between your lips. In addition I wasn’t even allowed to activate the lighter, only to open and close it. After weeks of rehearsal that thing was looking pretty limp and they had to give me a new pack since I’d crushed the first two. Nasty habit.

It seemed I was the newcomer. Everyone else had previously been involved in Community Theater in some way. My experience was limited to school and church plays, where one of my most notable memories was falling down a set of church stairs because of the length of my dress as the archangel. I might have been about six. To this day it’s rare that I’ll even consider wearing a dress. Once a fallen angel…

The adjudicator at the festival was kind to my Leslie and Phyllis characters. I would have loved to have been at the discussion on Sunday but an urgent family matter intervened. However, our main actress, Amanda O’Leary, won Best Supporting Actress! I thought she’d win an award, although I wasn’t sure which one.

It didn’t end there. We performed Sylvia twice more on the following weekend, to standing ovations. Part of the proceeds went towards the SPCA. It is a play about a dog, after all.

(The local performing arts center has a much smaller stage and one has to be careful not to accidentally appear in the background. If you’re building a theater remember to put an accessible wall and hallway behind the full length of the back curtain. Everyone from the actors to the stage crew will thank you for it.)

Out of the three performances Friday night was my favorite. At the point where Phyllis finishes her Scotch and is about to get up to leave I managed to choke on the ‘Scotch’ (iced tea.) My fellow actor said my eyes glazed over and iced tea was coming out my nose and mouth as I sputtered. Although somewhat annoyed with myself, I decided this fit right in and continued with my actions and lines.

Later he told me he was wondering how to get me off the stage without ruining the play. I assured him I was never in any real danger; as someone who plays flute and sax I can hold my breath for quite a while.

The next night I messed up Tom’s lines so badly I wondered if someone slipped me artificial sweetener. (It’s highly toxic, at least to me.) Fortunately we all thought on our feet and managed to make the unexpected ‘revisions’ fit right in. I don’t think the audience suspected a thing. One thing our director had always been pleased with was the way we all coped with unexpected moments and wove them into what we were doing. Perhaps it’s part of the play taking on a life of its own.

So now it’s over for a while. I did catch myself rehearsing a few days later. And I hear someone may want to produce another play with Dionysus later this year. They have my number.

Was it worth the effort and inconvenience? Definitely! I’ve been self-published three times, picked up by a smaller publisher in Arizona, and expect screenplay writing to be the next step in my literary career. I know writing for theater and film are different but I see involvement in local theater as an intermediary step. I’m also something of an opportunist, and the script reading series at the college (which led to being in the play) was within my current budget: free.

A Few Thoughts On International Women’s Day

How nice! An entire day to celebrate us international women. Ladies, may the men in your life treat you to a coffee today. Gentlemen, thank you for your courteous consideration. Let’s see where we are.

While many modern women might not even notice International Women’s Day the sad fact is that many others have nothing to celebrate. Sexism is even worse than racism in that it dehumanizes people across all racial lines. To be a member of a minority may cause one grief but to be a female member of a minority can result in even worse treatment. And all because of some stupid, archaic prejudice.

Unfortunately the right to refuse an unwanted marriage has yet to be enshrined within the current catalogue of human rights. Many women in sexist cultures are offered up as bridestock by their own families. This is nothing short of human slavery. Where money or property is exchanged for a female–who’s often underage, it’s also prostitution.

False legitimacy for these practices is often sought from religious or cultural mores. The woman generally has no right to divorce or faces inhuman consequences if she tries to obtain one. She might quite literally be persecuted to death.

There are also horrid cases of stalking and killing that take place in modern cultures. An ex-husband or boyfriend may decide to make life miserable for a woman he once ‘loved.’ The archaic idea of owning one’s mate has resulted in numerous crimes against women. Children and pets are often endangered when the abuser is on the warpath. Though it’s not as common some men stalk women who have celebrity status or other means to fight back.

Some would argue that men feel threatened by newer definitions of their role in society, that strong women are threatening to their self-esteem. (If that’s all it takes, the fellow really is pathetic.)

Yet most modern men behave responsibly and support women in their newer roles as equal citizens. Abusers will always find excuses to commit crimes against women. There is no justification.

That’s not to say all women have accepted their own equality. Some still cling to an archaic idea of being the submissive, useless princesses who need white knights to rescue them. This places them and their daughters at a severe disadvantage, beginning with the fact that white knights are few and far between.

Under the guise of being more traditional some unenlightened women oppose modern females who want more out of life. This can spawn jealousy where no offense exists and break up friendships.

Becoming a wife and mother should be a personal choice of one’s own–it should not be used to judge women who are single or juggling a career and family.

Women have so much to offer. It’s a shame centuries have been wasted by not allowing us to participate fully in all aspects of society. Most of world history could have used a woman’s touch.

It may be tempting to moan the past but it’s more productive to celebrate the opportunity to make the future better for everyone. Education and opportunity should be available regardless of gender. It’s a thought.